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Sanchez, Williams head MLB.com's list of top Yankees prospects

02/06/2013 2:55 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Slade Heathcott is one of three outfielders among the Top 5 on the list.(Charleston Post & Courier)
MLB.com released its lists of the Top 20 prospects for each American League East team on Tuesday, and among the Yankees’ Top 10 were a handful of very familiar names, a pair of recent top overall draft picks, and one somewhat under-the-radar player who has an outside chance to be a key factor in the Bronx in 2013.

As foreshadowed by MLB’s previous lists of top prospects, catcher Gary Sanchez held the top spot, with outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott ranking Nos. 2-4 and LHP Manny Banuelos, who will miss all of 2013, slotting in at No. 5.

Last month, Sanchez was ranked as the No. 3 catching prospect and No. 36 overall prospect by MLB.com, while Williams was the No. 9 outfielder/No. 41 overall and Austin slotted in at No. 75 overall.

Heathcott, now 22, was the Yankees’ top draft pick back in 2009, and the lefty center fielder hit .307 with five home runs, 27 RBI, 17 steals, and an .847 OPS in 60 games for the Class-A Tampa Yankees last year. A series of injuries has slowed Heathcott’s development over the last few years – with the 76 games and 351 at-bats he accumulated in Charleston in 2010 serving as career-highs – but with that behind him, he is projected to possibly start 2013 at Double-A Trenton, and could move quickly through the system.

Banuelos, who turns 22 in March, has been lauded as one of the Yankees’ most notable prospects since his debut in 2008, but he will remain in that boat until at least next year due to his arm injury; the southpaw half of the “Killer B’s” made just six starts last year at Triple-A Scranton before going on the disabled list, and missed the remainder of the season before having Tommy John surgery in October.

Spots six through ten on the list featured three recent high draft picks in RHP Ty Hensley (No. 6, 2012 first-round pick), 2B Angelo Gumbs (No. 7, 2010 second-rounder), and 3B Dante Bichette Jr. (No. 9, 2011 first-round pick), as well as 2010 11th-round pick and No. 8 prospect RHP Mark Montgomery, who finished 2012 at Double-A Trenton and boasts a 1.65 ERA and 14.9 K/9 rate so far in his short career.

However, the one player who may have the best chance to see the Bronx in 2013 came in at No. 10, and that’s switch-hitting outfielder Zoilo Almonte. Now entering his second year on the 40-man roster, the 23-year-old Almonte hit .277 with 21 home runs (good for third in the system) and 70 RBI in 106 games for Trenton last season, and will likely start 2013 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Between his experience, switch-hitting ability, and roster position, it’s very possible that if the Yankees should see one of their outfielders go down to injury and/or have one of their reserve/platoon outfielders struggle severely, he could be the first to get the call as a replacement.

As for the second half of the list, the players ranked Nos. 11-20 were, in order: OF Ramon Flores, RHP Jose Campos, RHP Jose A. Ramirez, LHP Nik Turley, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Brett Marshall, RHP Adam Warren, C Austin Romine, RHP Dellin Betances, and RHP Tom Kahnle.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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